Apr 12, 2014, 3:36 PM EDT
ATLANTA — So, what do the Nationals and Braves have in store for us tonight? If I were a betting man — and I’m not — I would take the odds on this being another close ballgame, likely requiring more than nine innings to be decided. Why? Because of the last seven games played between these teams at Turner Field, six were decided by 1 run, and four of those went to extra innings. And that doesn’t even take into account whatever bizarre occurrences typically highlight these games.
Tonight it’ll be a rematch of Sunday’s game in D.C.: Taylor Jordan vs. Alex Wood. Which, by the way, was another 1-run game, a 2-1 Nats victory. Jordan faces the full Atlanta lineup, with Andrelton Simmons back after sitting out last night’s game.
The Nationals don’t have their regular lineup, not even close. Jayson Werth, who left last night’s game with a sore groin, isn’t starting tonight. Neither is Denard Span, who before a clutch hit late last night was mired in a 2-for-22 slump. So Matt Williams is going with an unusual Kevin Frandsen-Bryce Harper-Nate McLouth outfield alignment for this one.
Updates to come, please check back…
WASHINGTON NATIONALS at ATLANTA BRAVES
Where: Turner Field
Gametime: 7:10 p.m. EDT
TV: MASN, MLB.tv
Radio: 106.7 FM, XM 188, MLB.com
Weather: Clear, 71 degrees, Wind 6 mph out to CF
2B Anthony Rendon
RF Nate McLouth
3B Ryan Zimmerman
1B Adam LaRoche
SS Ian Desmond
CF Bryce Harper
LF Kevin Frandsen
C Sandy Leon
RHP Taylor Jordan
RF Jason Heyward
CF B.J. Upton
1B Freddie Freeman
3B Chris Johnson
LF Justin Upton
2B Dan Uggla
C Evan Gattis
SS Andrelton Simmons
LHP Alex Wood
HP Larry Vanover (cc)
1B Angel Hernandez
2B Paul Nauert
3B Adrian Johnson
7:00 p.m. — OK, if you missed all the news, here’s the condensed version: Denard Span has been placed on the 7-day concussion DL and replaced on the roster by Steven Souza Jr. Aaron Barrett has been optioned to Class AAA Syracuse and been replaced by fellow right-hander Blake Treinen, who was scheduled to start for the Chiefs tonight and thus is very much available to help an overworked bullpen. Jeff Kobernus (who broke his hand earlier in the week) was placed on the 60-day DL to clear a 40-man roster spot for Treinen. And Jayson Werth’s groin isn’t serious, but the Nats didn’t want to take a chance playing him today. He is available off the bench. Read the full story on all of that here.
7:15 p.m. — We are underway, with a bang. Anthony Rendon crushes a leadoff homer to straightaway center to get things started and give the Nats a quick 1-0 lead.
7:35 p.m. — Wow, this one got ugly in a hurry. Taylor Jordan simply couldn’t miss any bats in the bottom of the first, and the Braves made him pay dearly for it. B.J. Upton homered to center. Freddie Freeman singled to right. Justin Upton doubled to deep left. Dan Uggla hammered a single to left. Evan Gattis crushed another double to left. When it was finally over, the Nats found themselves in a 4-1 hole, with Jordan having thrown 31 pitches. The Nats desperately need innings from him tonight, but this is the reason they wanted Blake Treinen in the bullpen tonight. He’s very much available to give them multiple innings if needed. And at the moment, it looks like they’ll need them.
7:49 p.m. — For the second time in his last three at-bats, Bryce Harper bunted his way on, dragging one past the pitcher’s mound and then beating Uggla’s throw to first. When done at the right time, it’s a nice little weapon for Harper. Kevin Frandsen, meanwhile, delivered another base hit, giving the Nats a chance to get something back in the top of the second. But Sandy Leon, despite battling through a long at-bat, lined out to right and Jordan struck out to end the inning. Still 4-1.
8:20 p.m. — Another lost challenge for Matt Williams, who I believe is now 0-for-5 on the season. He tried to argue that McLouth was safe on a bang-bang play at first base. The umps back in New York took a VERY long look at it and ultimately concluded there wasn’t indisputable evidence to overturn the call. So that cost the Nats, who wound up stranding two men on base in the top of the third when LaRoche and Desmond each struck out. Still 4-1 heading to the bottom of the third.
8:28 p.m. — Even though he’s been hit much harder, Jordan actually has thrown eight fewer pitches than Wood through three innings (69 to 61). He has managed to stop the bleeding; now the Nationals need to take advantage of their opportunities against a potentially fading Wood in the top of the fourth.
8:38 p.m. — Terrible sequence there from the Nats in the fourth. With two on and one out, Jordan couldn’t get a bunt down. He completely missed the ball on an attempt with two strikes, and because of that, Harper got caught in no-man’s land off second base for a crushing double play. That’s not on Bryce, who has to get a good jump if Jordan bunts the ball. That’s all on Jordan for failing to even make contact. Still 4-1, middle of the fourth.
8:50 p.m. — And we just saw another example why this replay system is flawed. LaRoche clearly caught a line drive before it hit the ground, but the umps called it a grounder on the field. Williams can’t out to question the call, but he couldn’t challenge it because he already burned his earlier. Seriously, there is no need for strategy to be involved in replay. Have a fifth umpire in the stadium with access to monitors. If there’s a close call, he can watch it and make a ruling. It’s too simple.
9:04 p.m. — And the bad breaks keep on coming. Zimmerman was picked off second base, and immediately grabbed and looked at his right thumb. He’s out of the game, with Rendon moving to third base and Danny Espinosa taking over at second base. Last thing the Nats needed right now. Meanwhile, they’re 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position tonight and thus still trail 4-1 in the middle of the fifth.
9:18 p.m. — Just when you think nothing else weird could happen to the Nationals in Atlanta … McLouth just flat-out dropped the ball after catch a flyball and attempting to throw it back to the infield. In the past, that would be a clear-cut out, with the ball lost on the transfer. But umpires have been told to enforce that rule more. So it’s a really bad E9 on McLouth. Somehow, Jordan pitched out of the jam allowing only one run to score. It’s 5-1 Braves, and that’s got to be it for Jordan tonight.
9:37 p.m. — The good news: The Nats scored a run, via a wild pitch. The bad news: They still can’t drive in a run with a clutch hit. They’re 0-for-9 with runners in scoring position tonight, six of those coming via Sandy Leon and Taylor Jordan. Not the guys you want up in big spots. That’s it for Jordan, too, as Blake Treinen enters to make his major-league debut in the bottom of the sixth of what is now a 5-2 game.
10:00 p.m. — Brutal night for LaRoche, who is now wearing a golden sombrero after striking out for the fourth time. The Nats are now 0-for-11 with runners in scoring position.
10:08 p.m. — Two scoreless innings from Treinen in his big-league debut. Nice job by the right-hander. It remains 5-2 heading to the eighth, with the Nats running out of time. They’ll face David Carpenter in the eighth, with Craig Kimbrel looming for the ninth.
10:22 p.m. — The RISP fail streak reached 0-for-13 until Sandy Leon finally came to the rescue with two outs in the top of the eighth. Leon’s base hit to center scored Desmond and made this a 5-3 game. Jayson Werth then stepped in to pinch-hit and had his injured groin put to the test when he had to hustle down the line on a sharp grounder off Freeman. The Nats had the go-ahead run at the plate, but Rendon flied out to center. So they’re now 1-for-15 with RISP tonight and trail 5-3 heading to the bottom of the eighth.
10:29 p.m. — Freddie Freeman is a beast. Solo homer off Craig Stammen in the bottom of the eighth makes it 6-3 and makes the challenge for the Nats every greater.
10:42 p.m. — That’s your ballgame. Nats lose 6-3. They’ll need to win tomorrow to avoid the sweep.
COUNTDOWN TO OPENING DAY
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As ESPN-980 AM's Nats Insider, Mark makes daily appearances on the station's various shows. Here's the 2015 schedule (subject to change)...
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